BEIJING • Rumours had swirled over the fate of Fan Bingbing and which other A-listers would be targeted after the Chinese tax authorities went after the actress.
The authorities also offered others in the entertainment industry an amnesty until Dec 31 to pay any taxes owed.
The official Xinhua news service reported that Fan, 37, would avoid criminal prosecution as long as she met a repayment deadline.
But her agent has been detained for further investigation related to concealing and "deliberately destroying" accounting documents.
Fan, in her first post in months on Weibo, said she was deeply ashamed of her behaviour.
"I have experienced unprecedented pain and agony in recent months," she wrote.
"I have reflected on my actions. I am ashamed of what I have done, and I deeply regret my actions. I apologise sincerely to everyone."
She added: "For a long time... I adopted the practice of having separate contracts to evade taxes on the film Air Strike and some other projects. I am deeply ashamed."
Her troubles began in May when veteran Chinese host Cui Yongyuan alleged that she had signed two contracts related to four days of work on a Feng Xiaogang film called Cell Phone 2. The contract with the lower monetary amount was said to be used for tax reporting.
Last year, Fan, whose track record includes the X-Men franchise, topped Forbes magazine's list of top-earning Chinese celebrities, with an income of US$43 million.
The Xinhua report yesterday did not shed new light on the actress' whereabouts.
Netizens had speculated that she had been arrested and detained. There was also talk that gongfu star Jackie Chan had advised her to seek refuge in the United States.
Feng had to douse talk that he was in trouble with the tax authorities even as Cui threatened to post incriminating evidence against the director.
Fan has also suffered a commercial backlash, with companies like Thai duty-free company King Power dropping her as its brand ambassador. Australian vitamin brand Swisse has suspended the use of her image in its marketing, while luxury brands Guerlain, De Beers and Montblanc have kept their distance.
Sources, however, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that Fan had been released from "residential surveillance at a designated location" about two weeks ago as the authorities finished their investigation.
Can she mount a comeback after her fall from grace? The signs are not too promising, for now.
On Weibo, netizens were puzzled over why she had escaped a jail term, with one person noting: "The working class folk earn only a few thousand yuan each month, yet pay their taxes duly. Fan earns over hundreds of millions yet evades her taxes; it's truly despicable."
Others dredged up the case of actress Liu Xiaoqing, who was jailed for a year after a tax probe in 2002.
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
• Additional reporting by Jan Lee